As 2023 quickly approaches, the construction industry is dealing with a series of odd contradictions. The after effects of the COVID-19 pandemic are signaling a looming recession with rising inflation, rising interest rates, lower consumer scores, dampening willingness and ability to purchase new home builds as the major indicators.
Seeing these trends rightly causes pessimism but construction might have something to be optimistic about in the coming year. For 2023, construction spending is projected to increase about 6 percent largely due to strong gains in manufacturing and retail facilities. The high rate of increase in manufacturing projects is chalked up to a trend in increased onshoring due to the supply chain disruptions over the last two years. Increases in retail construction spending are due to warehousing and distribution facilities being built because of the growth in e-commerce.
To make things more puzzling there’s still the rising cost of materials cutting into profit margins and the skilled labor shortage leading to project delays. This level of confusion can bring added pressure to an already reactive industry. It’s more important than ever that contractors take a step back and evaluate their current processes to find areas of improvement. Doing this may help you spot opportunities for growth amidst the chaotic forecast for the coming year.
One key area it’s possible to find opportunities in is through more effective management of your workforce. It’s imperative that you hold onto the workforce you have tightly, and this article is going to outline 5 ways you can improve your workforce strategies. Managing your workforce well will incentivize people to join your company and help the people you already have grow in their roles.
5 steps to more effective workforce strategies
1. USE SPECIALIZED SOFTWARE
A construction project has hundreds of dynamic variables to deal with, making it difficult to reliably predict exactly how and when a project will be delivered. These variables are part of the reason the construction industry has been slow to make gains in productivity over the years.
Most contractors use spreadsheets to manage their workforce. While they are a flexible tool, they’re cumbersome to update, prone to error, and limit collaboration. Trying to manage your workforce without software is a tall order and costly errors are inevitable. Workforce management solutions, like Bridgit Bench, provide customizations and industry-specific features that will help to simplify the complex process of resource planning.
Bridgit Bench can help to manage milestones and project phases and lets you easily tie your resources to specific project phases. Additionally, workforce management solutions will help you track your team’s skills and experience and provide insight into your workforce utilization rates to optimize your capacity planning, stay ahead of recruitment needs, and better understand the impact of future work.
An added benefit to this type of software is centralization of your project and workforce data, giving you complete control over your team’s accessibility. Making this data easy to access makes it easy to collaborate, make changes in real time, and share resources among multiple offices.
Looking to be more strategic with your people?
We partnered with Construction Dive to outline the steps any contractor can take to be more strategic with their workforce management.
2. UNDERSTAND YOUR PROJECT DEMAND
Your target project and phase completion dates can be used to strategically schedule your workforce to ensure you have the right people in the right place at the right time. Take the time to include your project phases in your workforce planning and include any other target dates you’re aiming to hit.
These project and phase completion dates help create the foundation for a productive jobsite. Be sure to inform your team of the expected completion dates for each phase and milestone, as well as how those dates were decided. When everyone is aware of their end goals and how those end goals came to be, it helps to keep everyone engaged in the work and pulling in the same direction.
Don’t limit yourself to just tracking current and awarded projects either. Many contractors overlook planning for project pursuits. Making this mistake leads to surprises when projects are actually won, amplifying the downsides of the labor shortage. According to a survey done by Bridgit and SmartBrief, 86 percent of respondents have bid on work only to find that they don’t have the necessary workforce to complete the job. By adding pursuits to your planning, you’re able to get a better understanding of the true capacity of your workforce. With this understanding you can bid on projects more strategically and give your HR team enough leeway to develop a recruitment plan to hire the most qualified candidates for your company.
Take the time to look at your historical project data as well. Find projects of similar scope and size to better understand the resources that were required to hit target dates and identify teams that could replicate that success.
3. IDENTIFY YOUR AVAILABLE RESOURCES
Now that you’ve identified your project and phase dates, create a list of all the resources you’ll need to hit your targets. Be sure to also include the relevant skills and experience for each project role.
You can also use this data to develop and upgrade an individual team member’s skills as well. You can use team members’ strengths and weaknesses to ensure skill sets complement each other. For example, pairing a Project Manager with a lot of experience with a recently promoted Project Manager will allow the former to lead by example, while the latter learns how to deal with the complexities of their new role. Effective workforce management is about choosing the best-fit team members that will deliver quality work on time and under budget.
Tip: Include a “Plan B” in your list of resources. If additional support is needed, you can quickly reference your backup plan to identify available resources that can help keep your project moving forward.
4. ALLOCATE YOUR RESOURCES AND REMEDY ANY ISSUES
We’ve identified milestones, project phases, and resources. Now it’s time to start allocating your team members to your projects. While everything might make sense on paper, it’s not until you start assigning your team members to projects that you’ll be able to see the impact on the rest of your project pipeline.
Workforce management software can help to identify any potential issues with your plan and remedy them in real time. For example, Bridgit Bench will indicate any allocation issues within your resource plan. If a team member is being over utilized, you can quickly adjust allocation percentages or replace them on a project with an available team member and see the impact of that change immediately.
Tip: Be sure to clearly communicate resource planning expectations for your project operations. If you want weekly updates from your Project Managers, let them know how you expect them to communicate with you.
5. EVALUATE & COMPARE WITH YOUR HISTORICAL PROJECT DATA
Effective workforce management is an iterative process. Evaluating this process when a project is complete will help to identify areas of improvement. As you make adjustments over time, make sure they’re documented in project debriefs. Consulting this historical data can help you replicate past successes, avoid past missteps, and scale your workforce planning process efficiently throughout your entire organization.
Lastly, it’s important to ask yourself three key questions:
- How well are you utilizing team members across the company?
- How efficient is your planning process?
- Does your team feel like they’re being given career-building experience?
Answering these questions thoroughly and honestly gives you the opportunity to set new goals and target metrics that build on historical successes and mistakes. You’ll also have an incentive to develop your workforce as an asset that sustainably grows and refines with your company. Bridgit Bench is the leading resource management solution built specifically for the construction industry. Our goal is to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of workforce management across the industry. Learn more about Bridgit Bench, or check out some of our client success stories.